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Vivian Carter Mason Interviews

Collection ID: MG 53

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of cassette tapes and transcripts of four interviews with Vivian Carter Mason, one of the founders of the Women's Council for Interracial Cooperation. Each interview was conducted by Zelda Silverman, and were recorded between March and October of 1978. The interviews primarily cover the early 1900s to the 1950s, and largely concern Carter Mason's family history and civil rights issues. The March 24, 1978 interview tape was damaged. Although it was restored, some of it is still inaudible. Topics covered in this interview include: Carter Mason's experiences trying to find employment, her home town in upstate New York, police in Norfolk in the 1940s, and taking her son to New York to go to school. The March 29, 1978 interview includes discussion of her childhood in Auburn New York, Carter family history, slavery, civil rights issues, social work, and a train accident. The May 8, 1978 interview includes discussion of her civil rights experiences, job discrimination, black colleges, Adam Powell, the NAACP. The October 19, 1978 interview covers civil rights issues, Norfolk politics, the Women's Council on Interracial Cooperation, segregation, Massive Resistance in Norfolk.


  • 1978
  • Other: Date acquired: 07/19/1982



0.20 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Vivian Carter Mason was born February 10, 1900. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother a music teacher. She grew up in a mostly white neighborhood in Auburn, New York, where she experienced discrimination first hand. She was also greatly affected by the stories her father told of her grandmother's life as a slave. Carter Mason credits her parents with encouraging her and her siblings to work hard in school and insisting that they go on to college. She succeeded in school and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1925. After college she was a social worker in New York where she worked her way up to the position of Director of Social Services from 1940-1942. After being injured in a train wreck in 1942 she went to Norfolk, her husband's home town, to recuperate. During this time she began thinking about ways to reconcile the differences between the races. She began by calling women that she knew or were recommended to her, both black and white, who were concerned about racial injustice. These concerned women formed the Women's Council on Interracial Cooperation in 1945. This was the first group in the area to hold integrated public meetings. Mason served as the Council's first president from 1945-47. Mason was involved in many other civil rights organizations. In 1953 she was elected the third president of the National Council of Negro Women. During her tenure as president she helped the organization devise strategies to work toward implementation of the Brown vs. Board of Education supreme court decision. In Norfolk, when schools were closed during the massive resistance she helped educate the "Norfolk 17" by administering the school opened for them in the First Baptist Church. She became the first black woman to serve on the Norfolk city school board in 1971. She served on the school board until 1978 when she resigned to start the Urban League of Hampton Roads. Vivian Carter Mason died on May 10, 1982 in Norfolk. She is survived by her son William T. Mason, an attorney in Norfolk.

Note written by Special Collections Staff

Language of Materials



Founding member of the Women’s Council for Interracial Cooperation and an active participant in the Civil Rights movement. Contains transcripts and audiotapes of an interview that documents her life and the Civil Rights movement in Norfolk.

Source of Acquisition

Mrs. H. M. Silverman

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A82-12

Related Materials

Women's Council for Interracial Cooperation Papers (MG 54)

A Guide to the Vivian Carter Mason Interviews
Jan Halecki
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US